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Greg Sutter, director of housekeeping at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, Fla., cleans carpeting in 1,218 suites located in three 10-story towers, in addition to 120 villas, and a 150,000-square-foot convention center. The 24/7 nature of his business makes fast dry times essential.
For the convention center, Sutter says what used to take a day and a half now takes three hours, thanks to ride-on carpet extractors featuring hotter water and better suction. They used to bonnet and then extract — a double process. Now, their ride-on machines extract quicker and brush to complete two processes in one pass. Sutter says they also save time refilling.
According to Sutter, the staff often uses the ride-ons in low-moisture prespray mode. It helps that all technicians are trained to use as little chemical as possible because they’re educated on how chemical action, agitation and heat work together.
“We do occasionally bring a truck-mount into the villas for deep cleaning at 300 degrees,” says Sutter. “But the advantage we have with our own equipment is we can pick and choose rooms. We don’t have to open and close an entire wing.”
The low-moisture extracting method also helps reduce the risk of slips and falls. Because there is less moisture left on the carpets, building occupants will transfer less moisture onto hard floors.
For spills and short-term visual effect cleaning, Sutter swears by a portable bonnet buffer system. “The dirt is emulsified then picked up by a cloth pad. It’s good for spills and dries in about 20 minutes,” he says.
“I can personally bonnet 60 to 70 guest rooms a day,” Sutter continues. “When a tower is closed we can go in with a half dozen portable wand extractors and do two floors in a day.”
Some cleaning managers comment that the biggest challenge when cleaning carpet is making sure to extract every bit of soap.
“It attracts dirt quicker,” Sutter adds. “If bonneting, you have to get that [residue] out of the carpet.”
He recommends tracking a spot cleaning program to make sure every situation has been tended to.
To remove organic stains like blood, urine or vomit in guest rooms, cleaners sometimes only have a window of a couple hours. Sutter relies on prespraying spots, then hot rinsing with portable jet wand extractors.
“A bonnet pad improves the look of carpets,” he says, “but you do need to extract it due to its tendency to resoil, and the 300-400 psi jet action really agitates and emulsifies the dirt.”
Sutter adds that these extractors are easy to repair and hold up well to heavy use.
“You can get into the corners too, where a round buffer can’t reach,” he says. “It is also important to pay attention to the air conditioning unit, baseboards and in corners. A wand can get into those tight areas.”
Productivity is also a theme for Randy Rasmussen, facility services senior supervisor at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and his staff of 28 full-time/16 part-time technicians. Together, they are responsible for cleaning a 1.5 million-square-foot facility, about a third of which is carpeted. Even though the cleaning department has two 12-inch extractors for spot cleaning, and a half dozen 24-inch walk-behinds, these large areas often require the use of ride-on extractors.
Distributors are ready and willing to train custodial supervisors on the proper use of ride-on extractors, who then go on to train their entire custodial staff. Everyone has to know how to operate the equipment, as they have to rely on facility downtime to get the job done.
“That’s why we have so many people trained,” says Rasmussen. “Often, people will spend their entire shift doing carpet extraction.”
Much of the carpet at the convention center is stain-release treated, but, Rasmussen admits, stains are also removed based on how fast the staff can get to them. “The challenge here is getting to stains fast,” he says.
Using ride-ons has made an incredible difference time-wise, according to Rasmussen.
“Before we got them, the same task would require six people,” he says. “We can do it now with one person on a rider.”
Rasmussen also emphasizes the convenience of ride-on equipment.
“Our machines are 29 inches wide and fit through a standard commercial doorframe,” he says. “That’s huge for us. We can go in and out of meeting rooms and back into a janitor’s closet to dump water. Sometimes it’s a tight squeeze, but we have that ability. Width was definitely one of the deciding factors.”
Rechargable batteries are another nice feature, according to Rasmussen. A technician can plug in an on-board charger during lunch, and then pick up where he left off with more juice in the battery, ready to go.
“Obviously,” says Rasmussen, “ride-ons are battery powered, not plugged into a wall socket, so the operator doesn’t have to stop to transfer outlets. I’m told we can get about 1,000 cycles on the battery, and in two years we haven’t had to replace it. It was in such great shape when we took it in for regular servicing that we bought a second one!”
Daily maintenance includes rinsing out the filters, emptying larger debris from the catch tray and periodically popping out the brush to remove hair and carpet fibers. His engineering staff checks the batteries monthly and performs any scheduled maintenance.
Rasmussen says his walk behinds are now used primarily as backup when the riding extractors are needed elsewhere.
“We’re getting more done, which I hope is showing up in our client surveys,” he says. “Before, we weren’t able to attack carpet like we needed to and we were falling way behind. Now there are fewer calls with requests and we can be more proactive. We can keep pace better.”
Christopher Kopach, associate director of facilities management at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., credits advances in extractor technology for allowing him to maintain a high level of cleaning, despite the additional 1.5 million square feet of facility added in the last seven years and the loss of 49 full-time custodians.
He’s streamlined his extraction fleet, which today, consists of three truck-mount units, six 28-inch ride-on carpet extractors, 30 portable heat exchange carpet extractors, 50 portable upholstery extractors, four riding vacuums, 10 HEPA filter vacuums and 400 vacuum cleaners.
The truck mounts are primarily used for annual deep cleaning on and off campus. They also work as sump pumps in case of flooding, which gratifies the university’s insurance company.
Carpet extraction ride-ons have proven their worth at the university, as well. They leave carpets dry in half an hour, versus a two-hour drying time required for walk-behinds. Kopach sites his 7.5-acre library — open 24/7 — as the perfect application for the ride-on extractors.
“The ride-ons and the heat exchangers also help with reducing worker fatigue, the amount of chemicals used, employee morale and productivity,” he says.
Bigger and Better
The decision to phase out walk-behinds and bonnet cleaning was not an easy one. Based on quality and efficiency, Kopach found it to be his best option.
In the last two years, he says, portable heat exchange units have been perfected.
“Now heat exchange carpet extraction units cover the same area and do a better job pulling dirt out with suction and steam cleaning, not lukewarm cleaning,” says Kopach. He adds that hot water breaks up oil and grease and pulls soil from the carpet.
Kopach found that his units can heat the water up in five minutes, cost a third of what ride-ons cost and provide great flexibility. The option to attach upholstery tools or release dirty water into a five-gallon bucket are additional benefits.
Refilling with an extension hose can be done on the fly, as well.
“I can plant a machine in the hall and run the hose for 50 feet,” he says. “It’s like a mini truck-mount unit.”
Regardless of the situation or machine, it is important to educate the cleaning crew on ways to be productive in any situation. Kopach has at least 40 staff members who have attended training courses through the Carpet & Rug Institute.
As much as cleaning managers can rely on technological advances, it is important to remember that technology is only one part of the equation.
“Equipment and knowledge go hand and hand,” says Kopach. “Both are required to clean effectively.”
Lauren Summerstone is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis.